This project will be led by SNH but is a cooperative effort between eight conservation organisations to restore, create and improve natural habitats and wildlife corridors throughout the Central Belt.
The four-year EcoCo Life project will run from summer 2014 to summer 2018. It aims to enrich and connect wildlife and habitats throughout the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) area, improving the quality of the water environment, securing flood management, and providing social and economic benefits throughout the region.
The LIFE project, which is funded through the European Commission, will involve SNH, RSPB, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation and the East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative. LIFE is funding 50% (£1.16million) of the project costs.
A number of areas have already been identified for improvement, including Flanders Moss, Blawhorn Moss, the Inner Forth, the Baronshaugh RSPB reserve, the Whitesands quarry, the Slammanan Plateau, the Garnock Valley, sites within the Glazert water catchment, a wetland restoration project at Cambus Pools, and the East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative area.
Phil Baarda, SNH land use and woodland advisor, said: "We're delighted that this LIFE project will be going ahead. The project has a fantastic range of partners: working together, we can make a lasting difference to the Central Belt's wildlife. In a heavily populated area like the Central Belt, it's important to make sure that habitats are connected so wildlife can move about easily and be more resilient. We also want to make sure that these areas are improved, so people can enjoy them as well."
Keith Geddes, Chair of the Central Scotland Green Network Trust, said:
"This is fantastic news for both people and nature across central Scotland and will help us to transform the area into a place where the environment adds value to the economy and where people's lives are enriched by its quality.
"The project will help nature and wildlife and will also deliver multiple social and economic benefits for local communities, including reducing flood risk, improving water quality, enhancing the central belt's sense of place, and boosting the skills and confidence of the volunteers involved. I congratulate SNH and all the delivery partners on securing this very welcome investment."
The European Commission approved funding for 225 new projects under the LIFE+ programme, the European Union's environment fund, including the EcoCo Life project, on April 30.